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Elmer, Missouri - Early History
A Sketch of Mercyville
(Reprinted from The Elmer JOURNAL, 1909)
The difficulty regarding the early history of Mercyville lies in this that there is absolutely no correct data to figure from. The history is traditionary. Therefore I can only write the early part from hearsay. The place was surveyed and platted by H. B. Foster, a civil engineer, about the year 1866. The land was owned by Allen Fletcher and Thomas Truitt. In 1884, the town contained three general stores, one steam mill, one blacksmith shop and two saloons; no churches. The first store was put up by Henry Cook. Milton and Marion Truitt built the first mill in Easley Township and located it in Mercyville in 1854. It was a grist and saw-mill.
The first Postmaster was Thomas Herron (although some records list C. T. Shirely as the first Postmaster), the second was Simpson Tate, an uncle to the Simpson Tate of Elmer. None of the first settlers remain; some went to new parts because they were imbued with the spirit of adventure, others of them sleep here near the scene of their early labors and their pride awaiting the restitution of all things.
This place was formerly known as Goosetown but in time the citizens concluded it should be christened anew. It should have a higher sounding little something, at least above the aquatic name of Goosetown. So old Pap Williams, the village blacksmith, proposed a game of cards to settle the matter. Pap, whose wife bore the euphonious name of Mercy, was successful. Her name was then given to the town amid the plaudits of the residents who had collected themselves at the place where refreshments were dished out. They then proceeded to celebrate the event. Several went home minus a piece of ear, blackened eyes and broken heads. The place now became famous, or infamous, as the most outlandish place on the map of the state, but let that pass. We will draw the veil of charity over the scene; the reader shall be spared the terrors of this memorable town for the scenes enacted here which combined the horrors of a prize fight with being buried alive.
So matters moved along up to the time about 1887 when the Sante Fe was in course of construction. The place was then invaded by a different class, rough but an improvement on the rougher citizens who occupied the place before. But the citizens as whole were not an unruly class; they were good and useful people. Uncle Simp Tate of Elmer was one of the early citizens who did much to further the interest of the place. He is today a useful and good man but the weight of years has pressed heavily upon him as his mind has become so much enfeebled as to leave the past almost a blank to him. He has reached almost the highest point in the journey where the eye of hope looks from time to eternity in contemplation of glories yet to be revealed. Old William Hodge was a quiet and good citizen and there were others of whom time and space forbids comments.
About this time Dale & Son began a mercantile trade here which was successful to a great degree. T. I. Murry was in the drug trade and kept one article called snake bite cure of which he was an inveterate hater. It was almost impossible to get it even on a prescription. Mike Archer was the grocer; he was a peculiar man but a diamond in the rough. He (in the language of Ingersoll) has gone down to silence and pathetic dust but his name will live in the hearts of his pupils for he was also the school teacher.
About this time, 1888, the town of Elmer was laid out and settlement commenced but the merchants here rebelled. They said we will hold the old fort and so great was their attachment for it they even went so far as to pay the money out of their pockets to pay a mail carrier themselves in order to retain the Post Office here. But alas, avarice and the hope of gain triumphed over all; then set in the decline and downfall of the ancient village. The place was turned over to the moles and bats. It was a scene of desolation. Gloom pervaded the place, people passed each other without salute, their faces were sad and dejected, their eyes were fixed and staring; their clothes were in rags, they presented whatever is mournful in life.
But hush! Hark! A new hope springs up, we hear rumors of a new railroad whose terminus is Mercyville. The old place assumed a different aspect. The citizens pricked up their ears; they met each other with a smile. Our hopes were soon realized; the I & St. L railroad was a reality. It was the salvation of the place. Values on property arose to a sublime height. Now all is peace and satisfaction. We have a nice depot here and our facilities for shipping are as good as neighboring towns. Mercyville is situated in the Chariton Valley, the eternal fertility of which will outlive all the towns and settlements which have been founded along it and nourished by its wonderful soil. Small wonder there is a move on foot to straighten its torturous course. When this is done it will outrival the proud boasts of the fertility and productiveness of the famed valley of the Nile but here I must desist from further speculation. Imagination must drop its wing since I can no further penetrate the dark vista of the future of the place.